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Evans Media: Experience the Best Teacher

Carving out a place in the music business is difficult, and landing gigs on the festival circuit can be a “make-or-break” task. Ernie Evans – who operates family-owned event company Evans Media Source (EMS) alongside his wife Debi – is an expert in what it takes to get a lasting foothold in the biz.

Based in Florida, EMS produces concerts, music cruises, and almost a dozen bluegrass music festivals. From Florida’s Palatka Music Festivals to the Cherokee Bluegrass Festival in the Smoky Mountains, this company keeps music fans busy with options for live performances.

Ernie Evans knows perhaps more than anyone what it takes to “make it” on the circuit. The base of his knowledge comes from his experiences as a performer himself.

“In my early touring days, I always felt like I had the best seat in the house, and while reading an audience, you could tell if they were having a good time,” Evans said. “It was our job to keep them excited while they were watching us, but it wasn't long before I noticed many of the same people in some regions that went from festival to festival.” He realized it was a good idea to change things up from show to show.

“That drove the band nuts,” he reminisced, “but I tried to put myself in the audience's shoes. This opened my eyes to how important it was to give loyal festival-goers a different experience from festival to festival.”

Creating a roster of acts for an event may seem daunting, but years of experience have given Evans a knack for knowing what will work. He attempted to deconstruct it all and outline what he and Debi discovered as the recipe for success.

“I first ask myself: Is the band entertaining, between and during songs, on and off stage?” He stressed that marketing is as important as the music itself and seeks out personas that stand out from the crowd.

“Notice I have not mentioned the quality of sound,” he added, explaining that sounding great is the bare prerequisite to even be considered at all. “This is a given for all festivals. You should not put anything on your stage that doesn't belong there because it is cheap.”

In terms of the “extra” he seeks, much of it – at least in today’s day and age – includes having a bit of business sense.

“If a band has a website that looks professional, it is a plus,” he said. “If a band dresses well and separates their look from the audience, it, too, is a plus. If a band does not have a Facebook page dedicated to their band, there is a good chance they will not be considered unless there is a special reason. If a band does not promote themselves, they will never promote our event.”

While he looks for performers who conform by taking advantage of marketing tools, he stresses that originality is a primary trait he values.

“Don't try to imitate anyone. Learn from the greats, but do not imitate them,” he advised. “Taking a page out of their book does not mean ripping off the cover; it means digging deeper into the book to find out what made you love them.”

“Be original, innovative, and develop your own sound,” he said. “That is what the pioneers did.

Today, too many sound alike.”

Evans shared thoughts on mistakes artists make, and most involve not investing the time to get immersed in the music community or not understanding reciprocity and teamwork.

“There are many worthy bands that do not play for us much,” he explained, “and part of the reason is that as a promoter, loyalty, integrity, and a good relationship is a two-way street. We have to be loyal and really help performers as much as we can. We as promoters need to elevate them and help further their development,” he continued, on the type of relationship he offers to performers in which he has faith. “This means give them more work, and if they are doing well, have them back more often. The downside is that it does not leave many openings for new bands. The window of opportunity may be more narrow.”

He added, “We do try to refresh as much as we can while also practicing what we preach.”

EMS will soon begin offering even more resources to performers.

“Please be watching for a series of courses on these topics that will soon be announced regarding career paths in our industry,” Evans said, with a teaser of upcoming offerings. “I have teamed up with some very knowledgeable people who have observed this industry from the best seat in the house. This new venture includes Master of Ceremonies Sherry Boyd, Cindy Baucom, Gabriel Acevedo and others. It will be free and covers everything from the beginning of a band to booking, marketing, Meta, recording, radio, publicity and more.”

The kind of advice these experts might give may mirror some of what Evans shared about the role of social media. In the past, successful bands had a publicist and agent. Now that social media is in the mix, some rely on it solely and forget these other types of marketing.

“Today, more than 50 percent of the bands spend nothing and rely on free social media to get their music out there and use it as a calling card,” he said. “In some cases, it has made bands lazy yet feel ‘legit.’ We look for the bands who invest in themselves.”

“If a band has great content and markets it well on social media and does all the above, there is a good chance I will be calling you first because you are good for both of us, and your fee will reflect that,” he added.

An example of the type of support the company gives to artists is exposure via productions such as the EMS LIVE Sherry Boyd Show.

“This is a one-on-one session with Sherry that takes people on a 15-minute journey of learning fun facts about the artists making this music,” Evans said. “She is the best at getting information never shared before.”

He said info about the show and all the company’s events can be found at either or the Facebook page.

“We care about the success of our performers, just ask them,” Evans asserted. “They will tell you that we work with them, making sure they have the info they need and the social media tools to help spread the word on their performance with us. This makes them more visible to other promoters as well. Plus, we have added co-op programs where we help subsidize their advertising about their band or new release.”

He said they might also help bands with publicity photos or include them in the company’s ads or videos.

“We are doing more to help them grow as an artist in all facets,” he summarized.


Evans Media Source creates the following.

Events, productions, cruises and concerts:

- Florida Classic Festival - Brooksville, FL

- Palatka Spring Bluegrass Festival - Palatka, FL

- Cherokee Bluegrass Festival - Cherokee, NC

- South Daytona Bluegrass Festival - Daytona, FL

- North Carolina State Bluegrass Festival - Marion, NC

- The McDowell Country Country Music Roundup - Marion, NC

- Jekyll Island New Years Festival - Jekyll Island, GA

- Sertoma Spring Bluegrass Festival - Brooksville, FL

- Thanksgiving Bluegrass Festival - Brooksville, FL

- Cherokee Bluegrass & Classic Country Music Festival - Cherokee, NC

- Palatka Fall Bluegrass Festival - Palatka, FL

- Yeehaw Music Festival - Okeechobee, FL

- Orange Park Fall Music Festival - Orange Park, FL

- Orange Park Kids Fest - Orange Park, FL

- Clay County Veterans Appreciation Day - Green Cove Springs, FL

- Classic Country Luxury Cruises - Bahamas, Western Caribbean

- Bluegrass Music Luxury Cruises - Western Caribbean

- Jewel Box Concerts - Gainesville, FL

- Sounds of the South Summer Concerts - Fleming Island, FL

- Brooksville Native American Festival - Brooksville, FL

- Monteverde Days - Town of Monteverde, FL

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